Off and Running: Top 10 Chrome Extensions
Whether referred to as an extension, a plug-in or an add-on, the free extras available for Web browsers can add unprecedented functionality to the online experience.
Mozilla Firefox offers 5,000 add-ons while Microsoft extensions for Internet Explorer are limited. Perhaps that's why Web analytics firm StatCounter registered more site visits from Firefox 3.5 users than IE7 users on Dec. 21, a record-breaking first for Mozilla.
When Google made their Chrome browser public last fall, extensions were not available, and users who were accustomed to adding features to their Firefox browser were hesitant to try Chrome until extensions were available.
But in mid-December of last year, Google opened their extension site, which now offers more than 1,500 plug-ins. In three months, Google created one third of the extension inventory that Mozilla took six years to compile.
The Chrome extension site is organized in a similar fashion to the iPhone apps store: Extensions are listed by Most Popular, Top Rated and Most Recent. For now, extensions are not categorized. The list was created after a test drive of the 20 most popular extensions plus an additional 20 of the top rated. The following list of 10 will bring a higher level of functionality to browsing the Web. Best of all, the improvements are free. Who knew browsing could be both efficient and fun?
A first for PC users, Webpage Screenshot captures an entire webpage regardless of length, rather than just the segment that appears on the screen. The New York Times homepage, totaling four screens, was rendered as a single scrollable image in under 10 seconds. Once saved, the image can be viewed and shared in the same way as any other photo stored on the computer.
Ad Thwart is one of the most popular extensions for Chrome, second only to Google Mail Checker, which shows the number of unread messages in your Gmail account. AdThwart automatically removes all ads from a webpage before it displays on the screen, and it does so without any noticeable delay. White space replaces ad content, which may be a welcome relief for some.
Web of Trust (WOT) is a safe-browsing tool. Easily viewable are the reputation rankings and full page alerts for potentially harmful sites, including online shops reputed to cheat customers; download sites that may deliver malware; sites reported for sending spam; and those with inappropriate content for children. WOT uses a universally recognized red, yellow and green alert icon, and offers a modified version for the color blind. WOT's ratings come from reports for over 25 million sites from more than seven million community members worldwide.
Cooliris provides a new three dimensional way of viewing images from almost anywhere online or on a computer. Once the extension is installed, Cooliris integrates with image searches. For example, a Google image search of beaches resulted in 173 million results. Hover over any one of the photos and click on the Cooliris icon which will appear in the lower left corner of the image. In less than five seconds, the results are transformed into a seemingly endless 3D wall of photos to scan, enlarge and share.
For those who use the online version of Microsoft Outlook for email, adding IE Tab makes a dramatic difference. The extension transforms the Outlook interface into the full featured version available only when viewing through the Internet Explorer (IE) browser, making switching between Chrome and IE unnecessary.
Google Translate is one of the most accurate machine translation programs available today. From 2005 to 2008, it ranked first in the National Institution of Standards and Technology Evaluation, but fell to second place behind AppTek in the 2009 evaluation. Translate is a reliable, free, single-click way to translate entire webpages into one of 51 languages in less than three seconds.
Some popular sites have time saving extensions, allowing interaction without going to the site itself. Look for eBay, Facebook and Chromed Bird for Twitter, but hold off on Amazon until the bugs are fixed.
NPR fans can now listen to their favorite audio stories found on the NPR site while browsing the Web. NPR: News, Music, Books goes a step beyond reformatting audio content and allows users to add custom tabs to the standards like news, popular and opinion. Adding a Middle East tab was simple and a list of stories related to the topic were generated immediately.
Chrome makes it easy to disable or uninstall an extension. Click on the down arrow next to the wrench in the upper right-hand corner of the Chrome window and select Extensions to take the desired action.